The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Treasurer's Concerns and Dilapidated Buildings Dominate Special Council Meeting

by: Deb Olson, The Quill

A point of contention at the November 28th council meeting was what to do about dilapidated buildings in La Harpe. The council took up the matter of the 4 story building at this meeting because of concern regarding safety of the building 109 S Center.

Stability is in question because the east side of the building has been pulled partially down. In addition there is an electrical pole at the location owned by Ameren which needs to be moved to accommodate further demolition.

In addition to the discussion on this building, the council was challenged by Richard Wood to also deal with the building at 116 which is just to the east of Wood Tax and Accounting. Richard and Donna Wood have previously appealed to the city to deal with the dangerous building next to theirs but have been told it is a civil matter between property owners.

The building east of Wood Tax and Accounting was bought at a tax sale by Tyler Ferguson. After the purchase the owner began stripping the building of salvageable materials such as copper wiring and fixtures.

However, that effort appears to have ceased. Mr. Ferguson is still listed as owner of the building on records accessible on the Hancock County Court House's web site.

It is the Wood's contention that this building which has its north wall down is a threat to people parked in back of the building. He believes it is a threat to the building which houses Donna Wood's business. Concerns for his wife's safety prompted him to strongly admonish the council to take action.

A special meeting was called for Monday night, December 5th. It was called to address 9 agenda items, expressing revisiting the discussion of dilapidated buildings from the previous week's council meeting.

The first three agenda items dealt with buildings that need to be demolished or repaired according to the process laid out by attorney Diane Diestler. These three buildings include the four story building at 209 S. Center, the building at 116 and 118 E. Main and the building west of the Apartments along Main Street.

Braden Finch who is in the process of demolishing the building on Center Street did not attend the meeting.

He has requested that the city write a letter to Ameren asking that the utility pole next to the building be temporarily move. Alderman Marcia Stiller will contact Ameren.

Tyler Ferguson is the owner of the property at 116 East Main. He did not attend the meeting.

City Attorney Diestler again cautioned the council that this was not an issue that the council should be involved with categorizing it as a civil matter between two property owners.

The third property, which was not discussed at the November 28th meeting as the others had been. Dan Gillett is the owner of the property. The council discussed the property expressing concern with the collapsed roof on the back section of the building. Mr. Gillett asked to speak about his building.

Mr. Gillett asked to speak about his building. He has owned the building since 1989. He wants to maintain it. He said that he checks the building daily. In the past the building served as his office. He noted that unlike the other buildings, the taxes on his property are paid. The building was not a tax sale as others.

Daryl Kraft expressed the sentiment that the council "needs to treat everyone equally"

City Attorney Diestler outlined the method to serve notices on these property owners. First, a notice needs to be served giving owners 7 days to respond. Then a second notice is issued giving owners 30 days to repair or demolish the building. Diestler will work with Police Chief Justin Livingston to get notices sent.

Treasurer Jennifer Ewing then addressed a number of concerns to the council.

She asked for clarification of the Sept. 22 motion by Alderman Bennett to cancel all credit cards then set up a new card with one name attached.

The card was to have a $2500 limit. It was noted that the city could not be the cardholder so a name was needed.

Mayor Ryan Kienast's name is on the card. The treasurer asked why the limit was listed as $5000 instead of the previously agreed amount.

She was asked to clarify the limit on the card.

Next she addressed her concerns with the process by which Tim Graves gets the cash to mail his reports regarding the water department. She has apparently had trouble getting the mayor's signature on these checks in a timely manner.

Another concern is that things have been moved or are missing from her office.

She informed the council that she has discovered that bills to Jackson disposal had not been paid since August.

The lapse in payment is probably due to faulty fax at city hall. The treasurer asked that hard copy bills be sent to city hall not by fax. She related that the bills have been paid.

Finally she stated that she did not want to use previous treasurer Carman Jackson's phone. As she as it only provides internet access and other functions didn't work well for her. The council agreed and decided that she should receive the customary $33 for home internet.

The council expressed their satisfaction with the treasurer's work.

During public comments from Dave Clover. He stated that his FOIA requests for the attorney's bills for the previous 5 months revealed that no bills have been submitted at this time.

In other business the council:

The final agenda item included a discussion of the need for legal counsel at meetings. City Attorney Diestler noted that while it was not necessary by statute that an attorney be present at meetings, the city attorney's job is to be available to advise the council on legal issues when needed. No further action was taken on this issue.

The next meeting will be Monday, December 12th.